Southern Myanmar nears relegation abyss
IN the season’s penultimate weekend, many eyes turned to the bottom of the standings to see whether Southern Myanmar could draw closer to neckand-neck rival Rakhine United in the race to escape relegation alongside the hapless Horizon squad.
After a goalless draw against Chin United on August 14 at Thuwunna Stadium, however, it looks like the game is up for the Southerners.
Going into the final week, they are ranked 11th of 12 teams, sitting three points back of their rivals and another year in the top tier of Myanmar National League football.
A win would draw them even with Rakhine, but they lose the goal differential tie-breaker by a seemingly insurmountable tally: Rakhine boasts a -10, while Southern Myanmar suffers a -29. They need to win next week – by more than 19 goals – and hope that Rakhine loses if they are to remain in the top division.
As such a margin of victory is unheard of in professional football, it looks like the Southerners will join Horizon in MNL-2 next year. The two teams lasted just one year in MNL, having been promoted in 2015 to the “big leagues”.
With nothing to lose, Horizon actually held its own against a desperate Rakhine United squad on August 14 at Aung San Stadium, playing to a 1-1 draw under a cloudy sky. The underdogs played hard, jumping to a one-goal lead at the 56th minute thanks to a brilliant run from Liberian Martin Karndu. But Rakhine stormed back behind striker Dway Ko Ko Chit’s driving goal in the 78th minute.
Afterward, Rakhine United defender Ndongo Serge Philippe said missed chances were to blame.
“We had chances and we didn’t score,” he said. “Everyone was feeling the pressure during the first half, I think, and in the second a lot of us made little mistakes.”
He thanked the Rakhine fans for their “amazing support” and apologized for letting them down. Head coach U Win Tin echoed his sentiments, pointing to the pressure of escaping relegation as the reason behind his team’s first-half miscues.
“Horizon played well, even for a relegated team,” he said. “I think our players had too much pressure coming in, but it worked out. Dway Ko Ko Chit’s tying goal was life-saving.”
Meanwhile, at the top of the standings, Yangon United topped Zwekapin United 3-2 to leap within striking distance of current runner-up squad Magwe FC. With 36 points, the Lions could steal secondplace honours with a win next week and a Magwe FC loss.
They turned in a spirited outing, as strikers Kyaw Ko ko and Adilson complemented a surprise goal from defender Zaw Min Tun. Zwekapin came storming back in the second half with two goals of their own, from Tin Win Aung and Matsumoto Ken. But it was too little too late.
Afterward, Yangon coach U Myo Min Tun said he had initially planned to rest his star players, such as Kyaw Ko Ko, to save them for the Aung San Shield tournament.
“I wanted to give them rest, but I couldn’t,” he said. “They did not perform well today as a result. But I’m glad we won. It was lucky.”
In other matches, champion Yadanarbon beat Hantharwady United 3-1 at home in Bahtoo Stadium on August 13. Ayeyawady United defeated Zeyar Shwe Myay 2-1 at home in Pathein as well.
A key runner-up battle, Shan United vs Magwe, finished in a goalless draw on August 14 at Taunggyi.
Southern Myanmar will join Horizon, returning to MNL-2 after a short-lived stint in the big leagues.
Southern Myanmar’s Htet Aung vies with Chin United’s captain Chit Su Moe for a header in the match on August 14 at Thuwunna Stadium.